Archive for the ‘Deadwood’ Category

h1

Discovery

June 15, 2009

At a professional development conference this week, I have discovered that the kind of department testing I advocated and said there was no reason students shouldn’t be able to do is regularly given to high school students. Why don’t we do something similar? Because “most” of the students wouldn’t pass. And Dr. DSN didn’t want to be bothered with the flak it would allegedly cause. Instead of seeing that as a sign of problems in our courses or in the student population, it was seen as almost ridiculous to expect college students to think on their feet—or their ass, as in this case. So what was the fear? That we wouldn’t as a department be able to defend our choice to actually challenge students and make them learn skills that are taken for granted for any college graduate? It’s offensive to find that [some] high school courses are more rigorous than our department’s exit exam.

h1

Last Meeting

May 6, 2009

Dr. NMT hijacked the end of our last department meeting of the year, cutting off and drowning out the old chair, one new co-chair, and a few others. He ranted, raved, rampaged, yelled. I don’t know how it or he ended—I left to check my email and came back only when everyone else, looking a little dazed, was leaving the conference room. Dr. NMT gave me an odd look, part satisfied so-there smirk, part slit-eyed I’ll-get-you-later.

The new co-chairs were appalled. No one got much done after that. Within an hour, almost the whole department left for the day.

h1

The Final Lap

March 13, 2009

I’ve been charged with gathering syllabi from several faculty members. It would be easier if policy had been followed—a copy of every syllabus is supposed to be sent to chairs and the division office. Dr. DSN never followed up in our department so most of the missing syllabi are from our department. I’m waiting for one professor to find, send or finally blow off the request for 4 syllabi, for courses only he has taught the past couple of years. Since he said, I’m working on it!, he hasn’t looked me in the face or talked to me and the documents, all our SACS documents, are due in 2 days.

This professor is also rumored to be the only one interested in taking over as chair after Dr. DSN.

h1

Academic Freedom to…Be an Asshole?

March 11, 2009

Are Academics Different?–Stanley Fish Blog, New York Times, 2/15/09

The response many would make to this accusation is that a teacher’s responsibility is to the ideals of truth and justice and not to the parochial rules of an institution in thrall to intellectual, economic and political orthodoxies. “Democracy,” insists G.Tod Slone (No. 228), “clearly depends on … professors willing to risk career for truth and integrity.” Academics, in this view, exercise freedom only when they subject the norms of the institution to a higher standard and act accordingly. They must, says mattm (No. 247), “retain the right to ask the question of what constitutes academic freedom — without any deference to the interests of the university whatsoever.” Here, nakedly, is the reasoning I attributed to Rancourt: the university may pay my salary, provide me with a platform, benefits, students, an office, secretarial help and societal status, but I retain my right to act in disregard of its interests; indeed I am obliged by academic freedom to do so.

It would be hard to imagine another field of endeavor in which employees believe that being attentive to their employer’s goals and wishes is tantamount to a moral crime But this is what many (not all) academics believe, and if pressed they will support their belief by invoking a form of academic exceptionalism, the idea that while colleges and universities may bear some of the marks of places of employment — work-days, promotions, salaries, vacations, meetings, etc. — they are really places in which something much more rarefied than a mere job goes on. John in Boston (No. 229) declares, “Your first move to say that the professor was hired to perform a job is evidence enough to prove that you don’t understand education; it is not a path that leads in a certain direction,” and certainly not a direction mandated by an administrative hierarchy.

One sees from this and similar statements that an understanding of academic freedom as a right unbound by the conditions of employment goes hand in hand with, and is indeed derived from, an understanding of higher education as something more than a job to be performed; rather it is a calling to be taken up and followed wherever it may lead, even if it leads to a flouting of the norms that happen to be in place in the bureaucratic spaces that house (but do not define) this exalted enterprise. If that’s the kind of work you think yourself to be doing, it follows that you would think yourself free to pursue it unconstrained by external impositions; you would think of academic freedom as E. Mucemn (No. 67) thinks of it: “Ultimately, academic freedom is nothing different than the freedom of human mind, as immense as the size of the universe.”

The alternative is to understand academic freedom as a much more earthbound thing, as a freedom tailored to and constrained by the requirements of a particular job. And this would mean reasoning from the nature of the job to a specification of the degree of latitude those who are employed to do it can be said to enjoy. This is Finkin’s and Post’s position: “Academic freedom is not the freedom to speak or teach just as one wishes. It is the freedom to pursue the scholarly profession … according to the norms and standards of that profession.”

Statements like this are likely to provoke the objection that “Academe should not be a Business or a Corporation” (No. 228, G. Tod Sloane). But that is a fake issue. Saying that higher education has a job to do (and that the norms and standards of that job should control professorial behavior) is not the same as saying that its job is business. It is just to say that it is a job and not a sacred vocation, and that while it may differ in many ways from other jobs — there is no discernible product and projects may remain uncompleted for years without negative consequences for researchers — its configurations can still be ascertained (it is not something ineffable) and serve as the basis of both expectations and discipline.

Once again we see that the argument for academic freedom as a right rather than as a desirable feature of professional life rests on the assertion of academic exceptionalism. What I have been trying to say is that while academic work is different — it’s not business, it’s not medicine, it’s not politics — and while the difference should be valued, academic work should not be put into a category so special that any constraints on it,whether issuing from university administrators or from the state as an employer, are regarded as sins against morality, truth and the American Way.

It’s not a license to be rude. It’s a vcommitment, an obligation.

I have to shit or get off the pot.

h1

D’All Weekend Long

March 9, 2009

Between 3 PM Saturday and 11 AM Monday, I got 8 emails from Dr. NMT on a poster/flyer for an academic advising and majors “fair” on campus next week when he’ll be “busy at an all-day….” The first email subject line: Please check out this D’oh poster which features you! Dr. NMT featured on the poster himself, 2 former students of his, one of whom published a book of poetry recently, myself, and a professor in our department who only got to teach in the concentration when Dr. NMT was off on leave teaching on the East Coast.

Three hours later, another email, subject line: Please check out this revised D’oh poster which features you! In the message, he’s written something like, Minor changes. It’s Saturday. I resolve to deal with it Monday morning. I have questions, criticisms, complaints about the poster that Dr. NMT will have someone, who knows, hand out as a flyer at the fair.

30 minutes later, sent to the entire department plus 1 or 2 retired professors, subject line: 4 the Majors Fair, a Creative Writing Poster. There are still errors. It’s still Saturday. Yeah, I still check my email but I save work, now, in my intellectual dotage, to the 5-day work week.

4 hours later, what appears to be the same poster is sent again to the entire department plus 1-2 retired professors: 4 the Majors Fair, a Creative Writing Poster.

2 hours later, after someone has obviously given some feedback finally, the entire department plus 1-2 retired professors gets: Re: Revised poster 4 the Majors Fair. Some large errors are gone. I’m still scowling at it. But it’s also still SATURDAY.

Sunday morning, with those 5 emails burning in my inbox, I finally send Dr. NMT my opinion. I suggest fixes, changes to sentence structure, content changes. I’m blunt, knowing that email is inherently blunt and somewhat snippy.

Later that night, about 9 hours later, I get: Re: Revised poster again 4 the Majors Fair. It’s sent only to me. I note the addition to the subject line of “again.” Now I’m the one at fault making him work on a Sunday, after he sends me and over a dozen others multiple emails on a Saturday. Because he’ll be “busy at an all-day…” that week.

About 1 hour later, the entire department plus 1-2 retired professors gets another email: Final Poster 4 Majors Fair. In the email, Dr. NMT thanks me and one other professor for our “feedback.”

Monday morning around 9, Dr. NMT forwarded to  the entire department plus 1-2 retired professors an email she sent to an administrator in charge of the Majors Fair: FWD: 4 our Majors’ Fair, forms forwarded for you.

An hour later, Dr. NMT forwards to the entire department plus 1-2 retired professors the administrator’s bubbly response and promise to print enough “flyers” to hand out at the Fair.

A few of these poster-flyers appear on the bulletin boards in our building, on Dr. NMT’s door, on the division office door. They’re not flyers but mini-posters, about 12 x 18 or so.

A week goes by.

Yesterday, I finally found a bulletin board where someone had put 2 of the poster-flyers, which feature not only my name but my picture, took the extra one down, and taped it to my crowded office door.

h1

Dr. SC

March 5, 2009

Dr. SC of fried chicken and barbecue fame teaches a core hard science at D’oh. His job has been secured through lawsuit—a previous president tried to fire him, largely for cause but without a good enough lawyer, and he fell on campus one time some years ago. Dr. SC was put on paid leave for a year after regularly humiliating students in class, calling black students at our HBCU dumb in not so many words every single class, week after week. I was on a committee with Dr. SC. Time stopped every time he opened his mouth. He was never on topic, he never stopped repeating his one or 2 points that hardly made sense, and he demanded “respect,” more like tribute, from whoever he saw as highest ranking in the room. He’s loud, too. And presumptuous—he once told a colleague of mine that she would write his committee report for him. The colleague said No. Dr. SC was amazed and said, You can’t expect me to write it?

h1

All for Me and Me for Me

February 26, 2009

“Teachers cant [sic] be stuck in the fact that they are tenured and nothing can happen to them”–quote from a student essay

Dr. DSN has been at D’oh for almost 15 years and tenured for more than a few. He manages to “teach” and “run” our department on 15 hours or less a week. Dr. DSN has office hours Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday; is gone by 1:30 every afternoon he does come in; regularly comes in late, misses classes, or decides after his office hours have started that he doesn’t feel like coming in; has said that if students want to see him then they need to come at 8 when he’s in his office; and regularly complains that D’oh wants “too much” from him. He strode proudly into the Dean’s office last week to announce that he would not attend the convocation because he had promised his young cousin that he would bring her to a parade. The Dean went ballistic, reminded him repeatedly that attending this convocation (and others) is in our contracts, that he is the chair, that this convocation is in outr contracts, what the hell is he talking about, a parade? And Dr. DSN came back to the office appalled, stunned, blindsided that the Dean didn’t agree that his promise (if it really was one) was more important than our contract and a convocation that’s been on the calendar since August 2008, and then Dr. DSN said, “He [the Dean] said something about ‘leadership’—I don’t even know what he was talking about….” I didn’t bother stifling my laugh. He didn’t hear me say, “Well, what’d you expect? Why didn’t you send an email like everydamnbody else does?” or see me cover my whole face and put my head down when he said, with the indignation of an upper-middle class housewife, “I cannot keep putting D’oh first.” Then he ranted that the Dean could “write” him “up, put it in my file, so what? He can’t do nothing to me anyway.”

Dr. DSN’s teaching coming soon…..